Africa: Life After Colonialism
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
[Excerpted from the book Real Utopia: Participatory Society for the 21st Century (AK Press, 2008).]
The one issue that remains the main problem in post-colonial Africa is the failure of African revolutionary movements to articulate a truly liberatory political and economic vision. The word "liberatory" is used in this essay in an anarchist sense; meaning, I am a fanatical lover of liberty (Bakunin[i]). According to Bakunin, liberty is the only context in which people's intellect, dignity and happiness can increase and grow, as opposed to the formal liberty doled out, measured and regulated by the State. Further, as Bakunin reminds us, it is important to keep in mind that the State, as we know it, represents and is there to serve the interests of the privileged few in reality.[ii]
Post-colonial thinkers have yet to conceptualise a liberatory State structure that does not facilitate a mere replacement of the old colonial ruling class with the new post-colonial ruling elite. Other obstacles we face in our struggle to achieving a decolonised Africa are, for example, the theoretical concepts we use to describe what we are fighting for and the assumptions we make when talking of decolonisation. The roots of this problem can be traced to limiting political ideologies; some of these political ideologies include pan-Africanism, black nationalism and black Marxism.
Another problem encountered by writers is the challenge of talking about race in the post-colony. Many post-colonial writers make a mistake of prioritising class over race, or vice versa, instead of using both viewpoints.
It seems to me that if we are serious about winning social changes, then it is crucial that these issues are discussed openly and honestly. A sensible point of departure for our debate ought to begin by critically reviewing some of the widely read post-colonial political literature on the topics of decolonisation, post-colonial society and racism.
The objective is not to merely highlight the wrongs and flaws of different political ideologies. The ultimate goal, however, is to present an alternative ideology that is consistent with our values and aspiration. So, in part two of this essay I present an alternative political theory that relates sensibly to post-colonial socio-economic conditions. This alternative political theory is based on the logic of participatory politics. I use post-apartheid South Africa as my case study to discuss political and economic challenges faced by post-colonial Africa and to show how a liberatory political theory could be implemented in practise. The reason I chose South Africa as my case study for this essay is simply because I know South African history and politics very well, and, in addition, I am South African.
Part One: Literature Review
Frantz Fanon is regarded as one of the key post-colonial theorists, and so it makes sense to first review his work. For the purpose of this study, the Wretched of the Earth by Fanon is an appropriate text to review.[iii] Regarding the issue of race versus class, the literature review will focus solely on post-apartheid South African writing.
Fanon argues that decolonisation is always a violent phenomenon. "The naked truth of decolonization evokes for us the searing bullets and bloodstained knives which emanate from it."[iv] According to Fanon, decolonisation is a programme of "complete disorder" which aims to change the social order of the colonial world. It is a meeting of two forces, opposed to each other by their very nature, and their first encounter was marked by violence and their existence together was carried on by dint of a great array of bayonets and cannon.
It is a truism to point out that the colonial society by its very nature is violent. It does not, however, necessarily follow that decolonisation is a revolutionary programme that is violent in nature. It might be true that most countries that have been colonised have achieved freedom through a violent struggle; however, that says more about the arrogance of colonial power than it says about the decolonisation programme itself. The misconception of decolonisation as violent in nature characterises the false assumptions that underlie Fanon's thinking about where the decolonisation process ought to begin (Albert, 2004[v]). It must be emphasised that Fanon's understanding of the colonial world is profound; however, some of his assumptions regarding decolonisation hinder how we might relate sensibly to the possibilities of moving forward to the liberated, decolonised society that is not a source of pathology.[vi]
Instead of decolonisation evoking for us the searing bullets and bloodstained knives which emanate from it, we could conceive of decolonisation as a fundamental societal change, a radical change in both the economy and the broader societal values regarding social relations such as race relations and class relations, to paraphrase Albert.[vii] It is through such a programme that colonised people find their freedom. It is not, as Fanon claims, through violence that the colonised people find their freedom.
Fanon argues that violence for the colonised is therapeutic, that it is a "cleansing force."
In reality, as Albert points out, violence has horrible effects on its perpetrators; it compels people to devalue human life.[viii] Colonial societies serve as evidence to support this view. And, there is no evidence to make us believe that violence perpetrated by the other side will not have the same effects.
Fanon, however, argues that violence frees "...the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction; it...restores his self-respect."[ix] Fanon does not provide evidence to support this perspective, nor does he explain his assumption regarding the "native inferiority complex." He (Fanon) seems to assume that simply because[x] blacks in the colony are subjected to all sorts of racist humiliation, this automatically results in inferiority complex and self-hatred in blacks.
In his book entitled Shades of Black,[xi] William Cross argues that there are at least four factors that explain why the mental health of blacks, including any propensity toward self-hatred, are not and have never been easily predicted by measures of racial identity. These are:
- The limited generalisability of results of racial-preference studies conducted with three and four year old children.
- The effects of Black biculturalism, acculturation, and assimilation on Black monoracial preference trends in racial identity experiments.
- The problem of interpreting the meaning and salience of racial preference and racial identity for Black adults operating with a multiple reference group orientation.
- The historical failure of students and scholars of racial identity to differentiate between concepts and measures of ascriptive RGO [Reference Group Orientation] and concepts and measures of self-defined RGO.[xii]
The point one wants to highlight is that some of Fanon's assumptions vis-à-vis what decolonisation represents, the motivations that inspire natives to violently rebel against a colonial regime and the supposedly rampant inferiority complex that is said to drive the natives into a blood frenzy, are completely unfounded. If we are concerned with building a sound post-colonial theory that explains more than hinders the comprehension of reality, then that theory ought to at least be based on sound assumptions. What is needed rather is a post-colonial theory that (Albert, 2004[xiii]) explains social events and psychological phenomena, a theory that explains political and psychological trends sufficiently for us to situate ourselves, explain to others and understand the way things are.
The Pitfalls of National Consciousness
This is perhaps the most important chapter in the Wretched of the Earth, for in it Fanon discusses ways a new government of the liberated post-colonial state could betray the revolution. Fanon argues that the middle-class of the new post-colonial state is under-developed because it is reduced in numbers, has no capital, and is totally opposed to the revolutionary path. Eventually it falls into deplorable stagnation. For this middle-class, nationalisation of the economy simply means the transfer into native hands of those unfair advantages which are a legacy of the colonial period. Also, this middle-class "...will be quite content with the role of the Western bourgeois's business agent, and it will play its part without any complexes in a most dignified manner."[xiv]
Fanon adds that after independence this middle-class does not hesitate to invest the money it makes out of its native soil in foreign banks. Further, the new middle-class will spend large sums of money on material things, such as cars and country houses. Fanon refers to this middle-class as the "bourgeois dictatorship." He argues that they are not real bourgeois in the true sense of the word, but rather a "...sort of little greedy caste, avid and voracious, with the mind of a huckster, only too glad to accept the dividends that the former colonial power hands out to it."[xv]
According to Fanon, the reason that this middle-class is corrupt is because it has a permanent wish to identify with former colonisers. Consequently, this middle-class adopts with enthusiasm the ways of thinking characteristic of the former colonisers. The results are that this new middle-class is incapable of generating great ideas to manage and develop the economy, for it remembers what it has read in European textbooks.
The logic that underlies Fanon's analysis is that post-colonial governments and the black middle-class betray the revolution because, among other things, they want to be white or to occupy the position formerly occupied by the coloniser. For example, he writes that before independence the "...look that the native turns on the settler's town is a look of lust, a look of envy; it expresses his dreams of possessions - all manner of possession: to sit at the settler's table, to sleep in the settler's bed, with his wife if possible."[xvi]
History teaches us (for example, see A People's History of the United States: 1492 to present[xvii] by Howard Zinn) that when people are oppressed they always rebel sooner or later. Furthermore, they do not rebel because of lust or envy or because they want to sleep with the oppressor's wife, but because they believe in justice, equity, and freedom. And, in most cases, the revolution is betrayed because of the combination of issues such as the lack of vision regarding the new institutions we want for a democratic society and a mixture of internal and external forces. Internal forces refers to sections of society that might be resistant towards the new regime due to their own selfish interests, while external forces refers to the global economy and global political climate, such a the cold-war. To view post-colonial politics from this standpoint is more revealing and enables us not only to explain but to predict political and social phenomena. A theory based on flawed assumptions that compel us to focus on lust, envy, and desires to be white, forces us to chase after psychological reductionist dead-ends.
On National Culture
Fanon's basic premise in this chapter is that because of colonialism and the cultural hegemony that goes with colonialism, native intellectuals respond by rejecting Western culture and embracing pre-colonial history and a way of life. To escape from the hegemony of the Western culture, Fanon argues that the native intellectual feels the need to turn backwards towards his unknown roots. As a result, the native intellectual sets a high value on the African customs and traditions. "The sari becomes sacred, and shoes that come from Paris or Italy are left off in favour of pampooties, while suddenly the language of the ruling power is felt to burn your lips."[xviii]
Fanon writes that the native intellectual goes through three different phases to arrive at this level. The first phase is when the native intellectual assimilates the culture of the occupying power and all his or her sources of inspiration are European. The second phase is characterised by the disturbance of the native intellectual. In this phase the native intellectual decides to remember who and what he is. The third phase Fanon calls a fighting phase. In this phase the native intellectual turns himself to be an awakener of the people; "...hence comes a fighting literature, a revolutionary literature, and a national literature."[xix] However, at the moment when the native intellectual is trying to create a cultural work "he fails to realise" that he is utilising techniques and language which are borrowed from the coloniser, writes Fanon.
The appreciation of certain Western ideas and the fact that certain post-colonial writers are influenced by Western writers and write in European languages should not be presented as a failure to create an authentic post-colonial cultural work, as Fanon presents it. To write in an African language or to quote only African writers does not necessarily translate into originality. A progressive post-colonial vision on culture (Albert, 2006[xx]) ought not to be opposed to diverse cultures (including Western cultures) and their influences thereof or to reduce diverse cultures to a least common denominator. The point, however, should be to enjoy their benefits while transcending prior debits. As Albert points out the only real cultural salvation lies in eliminating racist institutions, dispelling colonialist ideologies and changing the colonial environment within which historical communities relate so that they might maintain and celebrate difference without violating solidarity. A radical post-colonial theory ought to encourage individuals to choose cultural communities they prefer rather than have elders or others of any description define their choice for them.[xxi]
Talking About Race in the Post-Colony
Some South African writers, such as Neville Alexander, argue that South Africans should struggle for "the dream of a raceless" society. Alexander explains that a raceless society or non-racialism means the non-existence of race as a biological entity to begin with, and the "constructedness" of race as a social category and therefore the potential to deconstruct race as a social category.[xxii]
In his book entitled Why Race Matters in South Africa,[xxiii] Michael MacDonald argues that non-racialism should be the ultimate goal in any society, and that non-racialism consists of three objectives, namely, overcoming racism, eradicating official racialism, and propounding universal citizenship. Strengthening his argument, MacDonald writes that racialism, generally, usually derives from and abets racism.
The common thread running through in the above arguments is that the post-apartheid South Africa ought to mean an obliteration of racial and cultural differences. It is my contention that the presence of racial differences and racial hierarchies throughout South African society no more means we should eliminate racial and cultural diversity than the existence of overt or covert gender or sexual hierarchies means we should eliminate diversity in those realms (Albert, 2006[xxiv]). It would seem that by subscribing to the notion of "non-racialism," thinkers who comment on South African social issues confuse cultural differences and racial differences with cultural and racial oppression.
Class and Race Analysis
The dominant theme that characterises the socio-economic debate is that South Africa is moving away from racial Apartheid to class Apartheid. Patrick Bond, apolitical economist based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, captured the views of many when he penned an essay entitled "From Racial to Class Apartheid: South Africa's Frustrating Decade of Freedom."[xxv]In that essay, Bond's premise is that South Africa has witnessed the replacement of racial apartheid with what is increasingly referred to as class apartheid.
Echoing Bond, Devan Pillay, a South African sociologist at the University of the Witwatersrand, contends that the primary political question of our time has to be the class question - the question of poverty and socio-economic inequality. In their book, Class, Race and Inequality in South Africa,[xxvi] Jeremy Seekings and Nicoli Nattrass argue along similar lines. They write that at the end of apartheid, the primary basis of inequality shifted from race to class. "By the end of the apartheid era, South African households were rich or poor according primarily to the number and earnings of wage earners, and earnings in turn depended overwhelmingly on education and skill. Privileges could be reproduced on the basis of class rather than race."[xxvii]
What Seekings and Nattrass are clearly oblivious to is the fact that due to the cumulative effects of longstanding racial discrimination and oppression, which result in direct barriers to black capital formation; the white households are far more likely to inherit or otherwise benefit from family wealth than black households (Wise, 2005[xxviii]). Looked at from this angle, one is able to explain the socio-economic developments in post-apartheid South Africa more adequately than the empty claim that South Africa is moving away from race to class apartheid.
What is remarkable, however, is that there seems to be a confusion regarding how a market-based economy operates. According to Albert,[xxix] a market-based economy will use the existing expectations of community members, such as the racist expectations that whites are superior and more competent than blacks, to enforce, and, where possible, to enlarge its own economic hierarchies of exploitation. Available evidence in post-apartheid South Africa supports this claim.
For example, according to research done by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), the increased government assertiveness with regard to Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) since 2000 has propelled an increasing number of companies, large and small, into scrambling to find black partners.
"Hence Ernst & Young, for instance, record that compared with 132 black empowerment deals valued at R23.1 billion in 1999, 126 valued at R28 billion were made in 2000, 101 at R25 billion in 2001, 104 at R12 billion in 2002, and 189 at R42 billion in 2003.... However, although these figures are not unimpressive, black control on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange (JSE) amounted to not more than four per cent at the end of 2004, even though the stock market had boomed with a 50 per cent increase in market capitalisation to R2.500 billion."[xxx]
Simply put, this means that, BEE notwithstanding, black control of the economy is still insignificant. So, to posit an argument that the central political question of our time has to be the class question, is, at best, to overstate the case, and, at worst, to be recklessly dogmatic.
It has become an indisputable fact that apartheid left behind a legacy of inequality. However, what has proved to be a source of dispute is how we go about rectifying the status quo. According to the Polity website[xxxi], the state of affairs is characterised by a disparity in the distribution of jobs, occupations and incomes, and this is due to the effects of discrimination against black people.
To rectify the situation, the South African government has introduced the Employment Equity Act to address some of these issues. The Act is based on the assumption that through affirmative action programmes society is able to address the imbalances of the past and create equality in employment.
Critics have responded by labelling programmes such as affirmative action as "reverse racism." For example, Neville Alexander has pointed out that:
"the acknowledgement of superficial differencesshould not become, even potentially, a lever for marginalisation or exclusion of anyindividual or group of people. This is the essence of a non-racial approach to thepromotion of national unity and social integration and cohesion. As against this insight,almost every actual [affirmative action] AA measure tends to undermine such integration and cohesion."[xxxii]
According to Alexander, affirmative action programmes unavoidably perpetuate racial identities and that is disastrous.
Seekings and Nattrass argue that institutionalised racism against people of colour in South Africa ended in the 1970s. They write that in the 1970s the racial barriers began to be less restrictive and, therefore less oppressive, in large part because new employment opportunities opened up for "better-educated African workers."[xxxiii]
However, a study done by the HSRC refutes the myth that institutionalised racism is a thing of the past. The study shows that white males continue to dominate management and empowering positions in business, social and cultural institutions. According to the study, opportunities for whites are abundant, and it is easier for whites to get credit, start a business, find a job and make more money in their lifetime than it is for the average black person.
Part Two: Liberatory Politics in Practise
Background to the Study
South Africa became a democratic country in 1994, after almost 350 years of colonialism and State regulated racism (normally referred to as Apartheid). For over three centuries white settlers unleashed the worst form of institutionalised violence, oppressed and enslaved indigenous people, while putting themselves in a position to accumulate wealth. According to Professor Sampie Terreblanche,[xxxiv] this was achieved in three different ways. Firstly, the white settlers created a political and economic power structure that placed them in a privileged position vis-à-vis the indigenous black people. Secondly, the white settlers deprived black people of land; and, thirdly, the white settlers turned black people into slaves. What that history has achieved is the impoverishment of black people, and what that history left behind is the legacy of racial hierarchy based on white supremacy, authoritarianism, and the widespread gender oppression that manifests itself as violence against women.
It has been pointed out by many political commentators that the African National Congress (ANC) has done little to change the structural unequal distribution of wealth and resources in post-apartheid South Africa. One of the reasons for this is because during the negotiations between the Apartheid government and the ANC in 1994, the Transitional Executive Council (TEC)[xxxv] accepted an $850 million loan from the IMF to "help tide the country over balance of payments difficulties....," according to Terreblanche.[xxxvi] And, before the IMF could grant the loan to South Africa, the future government (which was to consist of the Apartheid government and the ANC) needed to sign a secret protocol on economic policies of the country. Terreblanche writes that in the "Statement on economic policies" agreed with the IMF, the TEC committed itself to a neo-liberal, export-oriented economic policy, and a redistribution through growth strategy. The TEC-IMF statement reads as follows:
"Monetary policy has carried much of the burden of SA's adjustment during the 1990s...An easing of [the strict] monetary policy would have risked a further undermining of [international] confidence and a resurgence of inflation...To redress social backlogs, SA's economic policies must be driven by the objective of durable [economic] growth in which all can share equitably. This will require political stability and a package of macroeconomic and structural policies that address the problems of high unemployment and weak investment, respect financial restraints, and promote [international] confidence in the country's economic management...There is widespread understanding that increases in the government deficit would jeopardize the economic future of the country...[and that] given the importance of maintaining a competitive tax structure...[fiscal policy] will emphasise expenditure containment rather than rising taxes...It is [also] recognized that unless social needs are addressed in a responsible manner socio-political stability would be difficult to sustain...Trade and industrial liberalization will be an important part of the restructuring of the economy."[xxxvii]
Terreblanche argues that as soon as the ANC's leaders agreed to the statement above, they were trapped in the web of the domestic corporate sector and the international financial establishment, represented by the IMF and World Bank. The consequences of this agreement are the unequal distribution of wealth and resources in post-apartheid South Africa. Poverty has intensified, racism has become subtler, but remains as institutionalised as ever, and workers are losing their jobs en masse.
Last year, in May 18, 2006, the Congress of South African Trade Union (COSATU) took to the streets to show their unhappiness about the loss of more than 100, 000 jobs over the past three years, according to the UN news agency, IRIN.[xxxviii]The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) reports that South Africa's unemployment rate has steadily increased from 1,912,471 in 1990 to 4,789,582 in 2002.[xxxix] To put this in a context, one has to bear in mind that South Africa has a population of about 46 million; the majority of those unemployed are black; a legacy of the apartheid regime, which today is maintained by neo-liberal policies.
The HSRC study reveals that unemployment continues to be linked to race in South Africa. A survey of 2,672 university graduates who obtained their first degrees between 1990 and 1998 revealed that 70 percent of white graduates found employment immediately, compared to 43 percent Africans who experienced periods of unemployment.
Moreover, millions of people still do not have access to basic services. Research done by the HSRC[xl] shows that about 11.5 million people did not have basic access services to safe water in 2003, and that, about 18.1 million people do not have adequate sanitation. I must emphasise the fact that these statistics refer mostly to people of colour.
Whites, on the other hand, dominate ownership of businesses, social and cultural institutions. Whites control about 80 percent of the arable land in South Africa. Opportunities for whites continue to be abundant, irrespective of income or educational status, according to research done by the HSRC.[xli] Another group that is benefiting from this state of affairs is the black elite. The Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) is a government led initiative to create a class of black capitalists, and has served as a catalyst in creation of this class. Consequently, a number of business companies in South Africa have made it a point to have black partners. However, it must be pointed out that this black elite is very small and, compared to white capital, this black elite has no economic power. As already mentioned in this essay, black control on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange (JSE) amounted to not more than four percent at the end of 2004, even though the stock market had boomed with a 50 percent at the end of 2004.
With this historical background, one wants to highlight the fact that not much decolonisation has taken place in South Africa. Further, post-apartheid South Africa serves as a good example to show that it is not enough to be against injustice and oppression; rather, in addition, one must have a concrete proposal for a different and liberatory society. Such a proposal ought to be based on sound economic assumptions and revolutionary values. Pan-Africanism has failed us, so has black nationalism and black Marxism. What is needed is a proposal that takes into account the best of all three theories, but at the same time goes farther than that by presenting a vision of what a better society ought to look like.
I propose Participatory Economics for such a project. Parecon (Albert, 2003[xlii]) is characterised by the following: social ownership, participatory planning allocation, council structure, balanced job complexes, remuneration for effort and sacrifice and participatory self-management with no class differentiation.
Through parecon I believe a decolonised society is possible. Let me show you how by dissecting the different components of parecon.
Albert argues that private ownership of the means of production exists when private individuals own the buildings, equipment, tools, technologies, land, and resources with which we produce goods and services. Further, having a few members of the society own these means of production and decide on their use, and, in addition, to dispose over the output and profits they generate has meant that this privileged group has always had more wealth and more economic power than other people in society. Looked at from this point of view, we can boldly state that private ownership of the means of productions lead to inequality, the haves and the have-nots, the owners and non-owners.
So, owing to over three centuries of colonialism and almost five decades of the apartheid's oppressive policies, the haves and the owners in South Africa have always been and continue being white, while, on the other hand, the have-nots and non-owners are blacks. When statistics show that black control on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange (JSE) amounted to not more than four percent at the end of 2004, even though the stock market had boomed by 50 percent at the end of 2004, it proves the validity of my statement that owners in South Africa continue being white. This racialized ownership of the means of production perpetuates the inequality and the racial hierarchy in South Africa. Private ownership of the means of production is the main contributor to the increasing inequality in post-apartheid South Africa. Moreover, the owners sustain this state of inequality by extracting maximum labour from the workers as cheaply as possible, thereby maximising their profits, while simultaneously, working to maintain the conditions that allow the haves and the owners to appropriate profits (Albert, 2003[xliii]).
Parecon would aim to preclude such a status quo. In a pareconish society we would remove the ownership of the means of production from the economic picture.
"We can think of this as deciding that no one owns the means of production. Or we can think of it as deciding that everyone owns a factional share of every single item of means of production equivalent to what every other persons owns of that item. Or we can think of it as deciding that society owns all means of production but that it has no say over any of the means of production nor any claim on their output on that account." (Albert, 2003[xliv])
An economy designed in such a way would facilitate the equal distribution of wealth and resources in society. Also, as Albert points out, this would mean that there will be no individual or institution that can claim an income different from what the rest of the economy warrants for that particular person or institution.
In an economy workers create the social product, while consumers enjoy the benefits of the social product. In a pareconish society, Albert argues that for workers to do their jobs responsibly and in an empowering way, workers ought to consider what they would like to contribute to the social product, both by their own efforts and in association with those they work with.[xlv] In addition, workers ought to address how to combine their efforts and the resources and tools they have access to, to generate worthy outputs that other people will benefit from. Most importantly, workers ought to be directly in touch with the dynamics of production and with its implications for themselves and others.
The same logic applies to consumers. Consumers ought to consider what they would like to have from the social product, either as individuals or in collective association with neighbours for example. They ought to address what to ask for to advance their lives as best they can in line with the impact their choices will have on the people producing their outputs.[xlvi]
To achieve the above, workers could form "workers' councils" and consumers could establish "consumers' councils." Albert argues that this would lead to a situation whereby a workplace is governed by a workers' council, in which each worker has the same overall decision-making rights and responsibilities as every other worker.
The same applies to consumers' councils. It is important to highlight that each neighbourhood consumer council would belong in turn to a federation of neighbourhood councils. The rational behind these consumer councils is to accommodate the fact that different kinds of consumption affect different groups of people in different ways, explains Albert.
To reach decisions, councils either use a one-person-one-vote majority rule or use a consensus decision-making procedure. The councils have an oversight as to when to use which decision-making mechanism to achieve maximum participation by members.
"Moreover, in addition to all these councils and federations of councils, parecon will have various ‘facilitation boards' or agencies that facilitate information exchange and processing for collective consumption proposals and for large-scale investment projects, workers requests for changing places of employment, and individuals and families seeking to find membership in living units and neighbourhoods, among other functions. Finally, at every level of the economy there will also be facilitation boards to help units revise proposals and search out the least disruptive ways of modifying plans in response to unforeseen circumstances." (Albert[xlvii])
In the South African context, councils would not only help eliminate the corporate hierarchy, but would destroy the racial and gender hierarchy that characterises the South African society. As has been pointed out in this essay, research conducted by HSRC has shown that the fact of the matter is that whites still dominate ownership and management positions in business, social and cultural institutions. The councils could serve as a force to oppose this white domination and institutionalised racism.
Regarding consumption, the cultural institutions in South Africa would, for example, because of demographics, reflect strong African cultural values and, not Western values as is the case at the moment. However, because the cultural institutions are managed and controlled by whites, the cultural production and cultural values that are promoted by these institutions are Western values, standards, and aesthetics. The targeted audience for these cultural productions are whites, mainly because whites in South Africa have a strong buying power. In a participatory economy where the concept of "buying power" is irrelevant and basically non-existent, cultural productions produced by these institutions would be determined by consumers' councils. In these councils every person has the same overall decision-making rights and responsibilities; money does not enter into the equation.
Balanced Job Complexes
In a pareconish society, corporate divisions of labour would be a thing of the past; workplaces will be run on the basis of balanced job complexes instead. This means that every single person in society will have a chance to do an unpleasant and disempowering task for some time each day or week, and then for some other time everyone in society will have a chance to work at pleasant and empowering tasks. The point that Albert wants to get across here is that overall, people should not do either rote and unpleasant work or conceptual and empowering work all the time. This is what creates class divisions in society after all.
In a society like South Africa, a workplace organised on the values of a balanced job complexes would mean that systematic biases or institutionalised racism and sexism are addressed effectively and institutionally. As I have argued above, research shows that 83 percent of those trained for operational occupation in South Africa are black Africans compared to 4.9 percent of whites. Further, 71 percent of those trained for managerial and professional positions are whites, compared to the 16 percent of blacks. This institutional practise that facilitates white domination is based on the racist assumption that whites are generally more competent and superior than blacks.
Balanced job complexes would terminate this practise by making sure that there are no jobs in the economy that are systematically reserved for a certain group of people. Depending on what sector people fit into, everyone will have their own share of rote and unpleasant work, as well as their share of conceptual and empowering work. Balanced job complexes will not only terminate institutionalised racism and sexism, but will also guard against a creation of a coordinator class. A coordinator class consist of teachers, academics, social workers, health workers, industrial engineers and a host of types of bureaucrats. Albert and Hahnel argue that the function of this class is to "serve the people" and yet also to continually preserve the conditions which give rise to the need for such services in the first place.[xlviii]
Decolonisation in Africa has succeeded in producing such a class; in flying colours too. Fanon is referring to the coordinator class when he, for example, writes that for the post-colonial middle-class, nationalisation of the economy simply means the transfer into native hands of those unfair advantages which are a legacy of the colonial period. Fanon adds that this coordinator class is quite content with the role of the Western bourgeoisie's business agent, and it will play its part without any complexes in a most dignified manner. Fanon's only mistake is to want to attribute the creation of a coordinate class to a supposedly rampant black inferiority complex instead of subjecting the emergence of such a class into a structural and ideological critique.
Decolonised Africa did not usher in a different and better way of organising a workplace. Instead workplaces are still characterised by the same hierarchical and authoritarian structure of the old colonial order. In post-apartheid South Africa, the workplace consists of managers who transform job roles according to the dictates of market competition.[xlix]
Even in other parts of Africa, where after decolonisation, post-colonial governments experimented with different versions of socialism (for example, Julius Nyerere's Tanzania) the process was basically carried out in a top-down approach, and it was a State driven project. Such an approach can only facilitate an environment where technical and critical decisions are made by "experts" who belong to the coordinator class. And that, as Albert points out, can lead to an increase of the fragmentation of work, and in turn bloat managerial prerogatives, and in the end substitute expert's goals for those of people. Once such a process is in motion, Albert argues that it is not long before a burgeoning managerial class of "coordinators" begins to increase their influence on society as a whole and to search for ways to preserve their own power.
So, the rational behind self-management is to subvert authoritarianism and the creation of a new oppressive class (i.e. coordinator class); the goal being to encourage workers to take initiative in workplace decisions. In a participatory society, the economy will be designed in such a manner that "each actor in the economy should influence economic outcomes in proportion to how those outcomes affect him or her."[l] In a workplace, for example, self-management will be achieved by means of workers' councils, and in society at large, self-management could be achieved through consumers' councils and neighbourhood councils. As I have argued in this essay, workers' councils are there for workers to consider what they would like to contribute to the social product. And consumers' council serve as a forum for consumers to discuss and debate what they would like to have from the social product.
Remuneration for Effort and Sacrifice
In a participatory society, Albert argues that those people who are able to work would be remunerated for the effort or sacrifice they expend in contributing to the social product, and those people who are not able to work would be remunerated at some appropriate level based on social averages and special needs. This means that no one should have claims on output on the basis of owning some means of production, nor should anyone have claims on output on the basis of bargaining power. Albert adds that, no one in a participatory society will have claims on output on the basis that they put a larger sum into the social product than others by using some special genetic endowment or talent, or due to having some highly productive learned skill, better tools, or more productive workmates, or because they happen to produce things that are more highly valued.
To reward someone based on the notion that they own the means of production is inequitable and unjust. For example, most of those who own means of production in South Africa do so due to white privilege, and because black people in South Africa were oppressed as a group and were not allowed to own property for over three centuries. The same white privilege has put white people in this country in a better bargaining position than other cultural groups; and so to use a bargaining position as a determining factor as to how people should be rewarded in the economy is not equitable.
In post-apartheid South Africa, whites do not only own means of production, they are better trained and are better educated than most South Africans. To deal with such a situation based on our parecon values, Albert explains that although differences in contribution to output will derive from differences in talent, training, education, tools, and luck, if we; however, define effort as personal sacrifice for the sake of the social endeavour, only effort merits compensation. Effort can take many forms; it may be longer work hours, unpleasant and disempowering work, or dangerous and unhealthy work.[li]
Based on this logic, this means that in a participatory society for a person to receive higher or lower remuneration, that particular person would have worked more or less hours or at a higher or lower intensity of effort. Workers would receive an "evaluation report" to indicate hours worked at a balanced job complex and the intensity of work performed, and this will yield an "effort rating in the form of a percentage multiplier."[lii] In addition, the evaluation report will be utilised as a tool to determine workers income to be used for consumption expenditure. So, based on the parecon logic, Albert explains that those doing the most onerous, harmful work would be the highest paid; and those doing the most pleasant and intrinsically uplifting work would be the lowest paid.
Participatory Planning Allocation
Allocation is the process whereby an economy determines the amounts to be produced and the relative exchange rates of all inputs and outputs.[liii] Albert explains that the economy chooses from a nearly infinite list of every conceivable product that might be produced in a year with every conceivable combination of patterns of labour and resource use, "plus every conceivable apportionment of the product, the single final list of what all the various economic actors actually produce and consume."[liv]
Unlike market-based economies, allocation in a participatory economy will be guided and informed by people's wishes and choices. For example, workplace councils will influence decision-making regarding production; and the consumers and neighbourhood councils will influence decision-making relating to consumption. Albert points out that for these councils to make intelligent and informed decisions that are in tune with parecon values, they need to have access to reliable information regarding production and consumption patterns of the society they inhabit.
"Suppose we keep records of the production and consumption that took place in the just completed year. Then with each year we will have information about last year's plan. Suppose the prices used to calculate social costs, benefits, and income last year are also recorded. Then each year we will have a set of final prices from last year to use to begin this year's estimates. By storing last year's full plan in a central computer, access to relevant information, including indicative prices, could be made available to all actors in the planning process. Additionally, by accessing such information, each unit can easily see what its own proposals were in each round of the prior year's planning process."[lv]
With this kind of information available, Albert explains that the councils will then receive information from facilitation boards estimating this year's probable changes in prices and income in light of existing knowledge of past investment decisions and changes in the labour force. Albert adds that the councils will also receive information regarding long-term investment projects already agreed to in previous plans. Further, councils will have to take into consideration any increases in average income and improvements in the quality of average work complexes that are projected for the coming year.
Access to this kind of information will make the councils function more effectively. This is because the availability of such information will compel councils to develop a proposal, for example, for the coming year, not only enumerating what they want to consume or produce, but also providing qualitative information about their reasons.[lvi] "This proposal enters the mix with all others, feedback arrives, and revisions are made, round by round, until a final version is reached."[lvii]
The advantages of a participatory economy are that instead of the State or the elite making decisions regarding production and consumption, workers' councils and neighbourhood councils will decide what is good for society. To bring it close to home, instead of white capital and the coordinator class deciding what is good for the economy, ordinary South Africans will decide which direction the economy should take.
The first part of this essay dealt with the conceptual flaws and inadequacies that hinder post-colonial writers and activists from fighting for a better and liberatory society. My point of departure is that a post-colonial theory ought to provide us with concepts and tools to describe and explain what constitutes an anti-classist, anti-racist, and anti-sexist society. The findings of the literature review on Fanon show that: Fanon's assumptions regarding (1) what decolonisation entails, (2) Fanon's views on what inspires the natives to violently rebel against a colonial regime and (3) Fanon's explanation on why post-colonial government betray the revolution and the decolonisation agenda are completely unfounded. Fanon's theoretical explanation on the above-mentioned issues does not help us fully understand the post-colonial reality.
The findings of the literature review on the issue of race show that for white liberals to argue that South Africa has witnessed the replacement of racial apartheid with what is increasingly referred to as class apartheid is to overstate the case.
bell hooks explains the attitude of white liberals differently.
"....white critics who passively absorb white supremacist thinking, and therefore never notice or look at black people on the streets, at their jobs, who render us invisible with their gaze in all areas of daily life, are not likely to produce liberatory theory that will challenge racist domination, or to promote a breakdown in traditional ways of seeing and thinking about reality..."[lviii]
It is these findings that compelled me to search for a more liberatory politics. As I have argued in this essay, a political theory that advocates for a participatory society makes sense, for it relates sensibly to our situation and our aspirations. Parecon does not encourage single issue activism, nor does parecon devalue other people's experiences and oppressions by prioritising a certain ideological perspective over the other. Through parecon I believe we can achieve a truly decolonised Africa.
The motivation to write this essay is underpinned by the belief that different political schools of thought (such as Pan-Africanism, black nationalism and black Marxism) that Africans have always used to carry out decolonisation projects have failed us, and that a much more revolutionary, far-reaching political theory ought to be explored if we are serious about decolonisation.
The thinking that went into this essay is influenced and shaped by the logic that (Albert, 2004[lix]) to have a growth-oriented attitude about one's ideas, rather than a stability-oriented attitude is healthy and is the antithesis of sectarianism. And, if we wish to overcome sectarianism, we need to be self-critical and to strive for clarity and seek truth as best we can.
[i] Mikhail Bakunin, "Who am I?" in No Gods No Masters: An Anthology of Anarchism , ed. D. Guerin (AK Press, 1998): 126 - 128
[iii] Frantz Fanon The Wretched of the Earth (Penguin Books, 1990)
[iv] Ibid.: 28
[v] Michael Albert Thought Dreams: Radical Theory for the 21st Century (Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2004)
[ix] Frantz Fanon The Wretched of the Earth (Penguin Books, 1990): 74
[x] Owusu-Bempah, K. & Howitt, D. Psychology Beyond Western Perspectives (British Psychological Society Books, 2000)
[xi] William E. Cross Shades of Black: Diversity in African-American Identity (Temple University Press, 1991)
[xii] Ibid.: 117
[xiii] Michael Albert Thought Dreams: Radical Theory for the 21st Century (Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2004)
[xiv] Frantz Fanon The Wretched of the Earth (Penguin Books, 1990): 122
[xv] Ibid.: 141
[xvi] Ibid.: 30
[xvii] Howard Zinn A People's History of the United States: 1492 to present (HarperCollins, 2001)
[xviii] Frantz Fanon The Wretched of the Earth (Penguin Books, 1990): 178
[xix] Ibid.: 179
[xx] Michael Albert Realising Hope: Life Beyond Capitalism (Fernwood Publishing, 2006)
[xxii] Neville Alexander "Language and Culture in a Postcolonial State" (2006) Pambazuka News, website: http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/38360(accessed on December 5, 2006)
[xxiii] Michael MacDonald Why Race Matters in South Africa (University of Kwazulu-Natal Press, 2006)
[xxiv] Michael Albert Realising Hope: Life Beyond Capitalism (Fernwood Publishing, 2006)
[xxv] Patrick Bond "From Racial To Class Apartheid: South Africa's Frustrating Decade Of Freedom" Monthly Review Vol 55. (2006), website, http://www.monthlyreview.org/0304bond.htm (accessed December 11, 2006)
[xxvi] Jeremy Seekings and Nicoli Nattrass Class, Race and Inequality in South Africa (University of Kwazulu-Natal Press, 2006)
[xxvii] Ibid.: 300
[xxviii] Tim Wise Affirmative Action: Preference in Black and White (Routledge, 2005)
[xxix] Michael Albert Realising Hope: Life Beyond Capitalism (Fernwood Publishing, 2006)
[xxx] Buhlungu, S., Daniel, J. Southall, R. & Lutchman, J., eds. State of the nation: South Africa 2005 - 2006 (HSRC Press, 2006): 178
[xxxi]www.polity.org.za offers free access to South African legislation, policy documents and daily political news.
[xxxii] Neville Alexander Affirmative Action and the Perpetuation of Racial Identities in Post-Apartheid South Africa (2006) Human Sciences Research Council, website:
http://www.hsrc.ac.za/research/programmes/DG/events/20060511NevilleAlexander.pdf (accessed on December 8, 2006)
[xxxiii] Seekings, J. & Nattrass, N. Class, Race and Inequality in South Africa (University of Kwazulu-Natal Press, 2006)
[xxxiv] Sampie Terreblanche A History of Inequality in South Africa: 1652 - 2002 (University of Natal Press, 2002)
[xxxv] The TEC consisted of all the parties involved in the Kempton Park negotiations.
[xxxvi] Sampie Terreblanche A History of inequality in South Africa: 1652 - 2002 (University of Natal Press, 2002): 96
[xxxvii] Ibid.: 96
[xxxviii] "South African Workers Take to the Streets" IRIN, website: http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=53450&SelectRegion=Southern_Africa&SelectCountry=SOUTH_AFRICA (accessed May 21, 2006)
[xlii] Michael Albert ParEcon: Life After Capitalism (Verso, 2003)
[xliv] Ibid.: 90
[xlvii] Ibid.: 128
[xlviii] Michael Albert & Robin Hahnel Unorthodox Marxism: An Essay on Capitalism, Socialism and Revolution (South End Press, 1978)
[xlix] Michael Albert ParEcon: Life After Capitalism (Verso, 2003)
[l] Ibid.: 40
[liv] Ibid.: 122
[lv] Ibid.: 129
[lvii] Ibid.: 130
[lviii] bell hooks Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics (South End Press,1990): 25
[lix] Michael Albert Thought dreams: Radical Theory for the 21st Century (Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2004)